Elkhorn Ranch Commemorated by National Conservation Leaders

Conservation’s Rough Rider Forged Unshakable Ethic in North Dakota’s Badlands

(September 15, 2007) Medora, North Dakota — The rugged badlands of western North Dakota – where Theodore Roosevelt came to heal from personal wounds and set his compass for future achievements – officially became a treasure to be preserved for all Americans at a commemoration ceremony today.

Today’s event, attended by conservation leaders from throughout the country and officials from the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service, formally places into federal ownership the 5,200-acre Eberts Ranch. The dedication drew the leadership and supporters of conservation and historic preservation organizations from near and far including, the Boone and Crockett Club, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Badlands Conservation Alliance Mule Deer Foundation, Theodore Roosevelt Association and TR Medora Foundation. The acquisition preserves the view shed from Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch, established on the banks of the Little Missouri River about 35 miles north of Medora in 1884.

The keynote speaker at the event was Pulitzer Prize-winning Roosevelt biographer Edmund Morris.  Roosevelt’s great grandson, Tweed, and great-great grandson, Simon, were on hand to greet the public.

“Through the foresight of the Eberts family and the conservationist spirit passed down from Theodore Roosevelt, this land will be open to the public to hunt and enjoy for generations to come,” North Dakota Governor John Hoeven said. “The land will also continue to contribute to the agricultural and energy economy; which will be a great benefit to the people of the region.

The Eberts family is well known throughout the region for its conservation ethic and for its hard work to be stewards of the land – much the same way that Theodore Roosevelt cared for his ranch 123 years ago.

“The historical significance of Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch and its surrounding views are a national icon and geographic symbol that capture the core conservation values of America,” said Lowell E. Baier, executive vice president of the Boone and Crockett Club and Founder of Friends of the Elkhorn Ranch.

“The Elkhorn Ranch is the Cradle of Conservation, the Walden Pond of the American West, the place where the national conservation movement started,” Baier said.

The concept of conservation that began in the 1880s when 25-year-old Theodore Roosevelt stepped down from a Northern Pacific train very close to where the commemoration was held, is thriving as a result of the three-and-a-half years that TR spent as a rancher in North Dakota. The conservation ethic and framework envisioned by Roosevelt emerged from these Badlands to form the basis of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.

That model – which recognizes that wildlife and natural resources are the cherished treasure of all Americans and that hunting and angling and access to open lands are the right of all citizens – not the domain of the privileged few – was a novel concept in Roosevelt’s day.

Roosevelt came to this country to hunt, and hunt he did. But he was shocked by the slaughter of wildlife that had occurred before he arrived. Bison herds were nearly gone and elk were scarce. By the time Roosevelt arrived here, the once abundant elk herds that roamed most of this continent had declined from 10 million animals to about 100,000.

“The celebration of the Elkhorn Ranchlands Acquisition is a fitting tribute to this man we all admire and aspire to be like,” said Andrew Hoxsey, Chairman of the Board of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

“Thank you to all of the individuals and organizations that made this acquisition – this project of historical significance – possible,” Hoxsey said. “In the years ahead, we will continue to work with many of the same partners to help the Forest Service conduct stewardship projects on the new public land.”

The Friends of the Elkhorn Ranch is a coalition of national sportsmen conservation groups, conservation-minded individuals, environmental grant makers and business leaders. The Friends were founded by leaders from the Boone and Crockett Club, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Theodore Roosevelt Association.

A touch of color for the ranch
© National Park Service

Purchase of the Elkhorn Ranch was accomplished without the use of tax dollars. Congress appropriate $4.8 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund which is supported by off shore oil and gas revenue. Of the $5.3 million purchase price, $500,000 came from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) as a challenge grant. An additional $700,000 for habitat restoration is currently being raised by the conservation-sportsmen community to meet the NFWF challenge to support habitat restoration and educational outreach. With the support of Bass Pro Shops, Tesoro, Safari Club International and individual contributors, the Friends passed their $1 million fundraising milestone just this week.“The addition of these lands to the National Forest System will provide the American public a unique cultural and recreational opportunity for many generations to come,” said David Pieper, Grassland Supervisor, Dakota Prarie Grasslands.

“Consistent with the agency’s multiple use mandate, traditional uses such as livestock grazing, oil and gas development, and recreational pursuits such as hunting, horseback riding and hiking will continue on the Elkhorn Ranch lands and associated national grassland allotments,” Pieper said.

Within the next few months, the Forest Service will conduct a series of open houses to gather input from the public about how the new federal lands should be managed. Three meetings are being held in September in Dickinson, Medora, and Bismarck.

Individuals attending the commemoration event today shared their thoughts about conserving the nation’s outdoor heritage by providing written comments that were included in a Dedication Time Capsule to be opened at a special event 25 years from now, in 2032.

About the Boone and Crockett Club

The Boone and Crockett Club is a non-profit organization founded in 1887 by Theodore Roosevelt. His vision was to establish a coalition of dedicated conservationists and sportsmen who would provide the leadership needed to address the issues that affect hunting, wildlife and wild habitat.
The Boone and Crockett Club’s Fair Chase statement was the first document outlining a code of conduct and ethics for sportsmen, which later became the cornerstone of the game laws we have today. Past Club member accomplishments include: the protection of Yellowstone, Glacier, and Denali National Parks; the foundation of the National Forest Service, National Park Service, and National Wildlife Refuge System; the passing of the Pittman-Robertson and Lacey Acts, and the establishment of the Federal Duck Stamp Program.

Today, the Club, headquartered in Missoula, Montana, continues its 120-year-old commitment to hunters, conservation, and our natural wildlife resources. For more information visit www.booneandcrockett.org

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

Founded in 1984 and headquartered in Missoula, Montana, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife and their habitat. The Elk Foundation and its partners have permanently protected or enhanced more than 5 million acres, a land area more than twice as large as Yellowstone National Park. As a result of the Elk Foundation’s work, more than 500,000 acres previously closed to public access are now open for hunting, fishing and other recreation. The Elk Foundation has more than 150,000 members, a staff of 150 and 10,000 active volunteers. To help protect wild elk country or learn more about the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, visit www.elkfoundation.org  or call 800-CALL-ELK.

About USDA Forest Service – Dakota Prairie Grasslands

The USDA Forest Service is a multiple use land management agency entrusted by the American people to manage over 190 million acres nation-wide. The National Grasslands comprise almost four million acres of these lands and are distributed mainly throughout the Great Plains.  National Grasslands in North Dakota cover approximately 1.1 million acres. The newly acquired lands lie within the Little Missouri National Grassland, the largest of all the National Grasslands.